How Much Is Wagyu Beef? (And Is It Really Worth It!)

November 25, 2022

For $250 - $300, you should be able to take home a pound of Wagyu. 

Yes, this is a lot of cash and yes, that is a small amount of meat, but a Wagyu steak is the apex of culinary goodness and meat production.

If that’s too much of a dent in your wallet, you can wet your palate with American Wagyu which goes for $10-$15 per pound before you spring for a Japanese cut.

As a barbecue chef, people constantly ask me questions about this rare special meat. In this article, I have detailed all you need to know about Wagyu, starting with why this beef is as pricey as it is. Let’s get into it:

How Much Is Wagyu Beef

Why Is Wagyu Beef So Expensive?

The cost of a Wagyu steak is determined by the grade and authenticity of the cut. Authentically produced Wagyu is originally Japanese and the tasty meat is acquired from only four specific cattle breeds - Japanese Black, Japanese Brown, Japanese Polled, and Japanese Shorthorn.

The most widely-available Wagyu steak comes from the  Japanese Black cow. Some countries, including the US, have imported these animals to produce Wagyu meat locally. The less common steaks come from Japanese Polled and Japanese Shorthorn, neither of which are bred outside Japan.

The rarest steak, however, is olive wagyu. This Wagyu is produced from Koruge Washu cattle, a variety of Japanese Black cows that are fed on a diet mixed with olive pulp. Only a handful of farmers in rural Japan breed these cows.

Wagyu cows are bred for their genetically superior qualities and fed specifically to produce the tender marbled cuts

Genuine Wagyu beef is rare, premium, highly sought-after and expensive to produce. Processing, packaging, preserving, and importing the meat also adds to the cost.

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Is Wagyu Beef Worth The Cost?

Absolutely. For two reasons:

1. The Taste Profile 

Once you have had a bite of Wagyu, you will be a convert. Wagyu meat has a tender, juicy, and buttery flavor. 

2. The Quality

Wagyu beef is produced under the strictest guidelines to create the most prized beef steak. Wagyu qualifies on all four quality markers of a great steak: tenderness, texture, color, and marbling.

How To Identify Authentic Wagyu Beef?

Now, we’re talking. If you must shell out $250 per pound of meat, you need to be sure you are getting the real deal. Look out for the following:

Authentic Wagyu Is Expensive

There are many vendors claiming to have Wagyu in their stores for a friendlier price but genuine Wagyu is in short supply. Wagyu production is so tightly regulated that it cannot reach the shelves at lower rates.

What you're getting in these stores and restaurants is meat that may possess some characteristics of Wagyu beef such as some marbling and juiciness but it is not genuine Wagyu! 

Real Wagyu Beef Is Pink, Not Red

If the meat you are buying is red, it is just a normal steak. Wagyu beef is pink, not red.

The fatty acid content of bona fide Wagyu is high and extensively marbled into the muscle, producing a soft pink tissue that is a distinct feature of real Wagyu.

Buy From Reputable Licensed Vendors

Legitimate Wagyu and Kobe beef vendors are all regulated and licensed by the Kobe Beef Marketing & Distribution Promotion Association. A simple online search should reveal whether your vendor is certified to sell Wagyu or not.

If not, you are getting shortchanged.

Use Your Eyes And Trust Your Instincts

A good look at the Wagyu on the counter should be sufficient. Extensive marbling, pink color, zero bones, and a fat uncompromising price tag are sufficient aspects to look out for.

A Japanese cow produces such a distinctive carcass appearance that it is impossible to falsify. 

Uncertified vendors and restaurants merely use the term Wagyu to drive up sales. 

Raw Meat For Sale

Wagyu Beef Is Full Of Fat. Is It Healthy?

Glad you asked. 

Fats are not all the same. Wagyu beef contains monounsaturated fats, conjugated linoleic acids (CLA), Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids, all of which are beneficial to the heart and cell growth. So you can buy Wagyu without any worry.

Unhealthy fats are saturated fats present in other beef steaks and transfats, which are abundant in processed foods. These, unlike monounsaturated fats, increase the amount of LDL cholesterol, increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Can I Get Cheaper Wagyu Beef?

Yes. Look for American Wagyu.

American Wagyu is locally produced by cross-breeding Japanese cows with Angus. Production guidelines are less strict than those set by the Japanese government but you will still enjoy a tender, juicy steak.

By Kristy J. Norton
I'm Kristy – a chef and connoisseur of all things BBQ! You can find me either in my kitchen (or someone else's) or at a big outdoor barbecue surrounded by friends and family. In both my professional and personal life I’ve picked up more than a few tips and tricks for turning out delicious food. I consider it a privilege to share it with others!
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